One of Lydia's female cousins brought over woven platters to the three women. Wepaesee said something that Alexia believed to be a thank you in Wampanoag so she echoed the words. The cousin smiled brightly and walked away. The platters contained a small quail and an assortment of vegetables as well as an item she couldn't identify. Asking grandmother Wepaesee, she found it was cattail root flour, pollen, and maple syrup baked together on hot stones. Tasting the unleavened biscuit, she found it interesting.
Another woman brought Inshapae a bowl of food. She resembled the boy and was probably his mother. She ruffled his hair and departed, leaving the boy looking peeved. Lydia thought about the boy and asked him a question.
"Inshapae, where did you learn to speak English so well?"
The boy finished chewing his food politely then answered. "From the Jesuit priest near our village. He had hoped I would convert once I learned English well enough." The slight smirk on his face told the story, that he learned what he needed from the priest and left, his people's faith intact.
Alexia chuckled and thought the boy was too smart for his own good. Had he been white, he would no doubt would have become a businessman or politician.
"Why do you laugh?" the boy asked, wondering if he should be offended.
Alexia grinned, "Because I think ye are a very smart boy who will one day become a great man. I was laughing at the foolishness of the priest, not at ye."
The boy relaxed. He was at an age where soon he would take his manhood test and didn't want to be treated as a child. The respect in the warrior woman's eyes meant a lot to him. If she saw greatness in his future, it must be so.
"Kuttabotomish," he said with a grin.
"Ye are welcomed," Alexia grinned back.
The seamstress lowered the hem of her deerskin dress and stepped out from the bushes. Her eyes caught sight of something that made her freeze in fear.
Alexia was at the edge of the pond and wondered why Lydia was just standing there by the trees. She seemed to be looking at something. Curious, she walked over to her still mate.
"Don't move!" Lydia hissed, waving her back. The redhead looked down and saw a black furry creature about the size of smaller dog. It didn't seem very threatening. It was sniffing at a rotting log without a care in the world. It had the oddest white stripe though. Curious, she stepped closer to the animal.
"Alexia! Don't!" she whispered in panic to the Scots woman.
"What? It looks harmless enough." She bent down and touched the fearless creature. Lydia couldn't look and closed her eyes.
"Aren't ye a friendly thing?" she heard her spouse say. Cautiously, she reopened her eyes. Alexia was standing there, holding the skunk in her arms. Lydia's eyes grew huge as her tall lover stepped closer, wanting to know if she wanted to pet it.
"No! Just put it down and step away, slowly!" Lydia pleaded.
A child behind them squealed. A girl of about seven ran up to the towering redhead and held out her hands. Alexia placed the furry animal in her arms. The girl said something and rushed off with her pet.
Turning back to face her spouse, Alexia noted how pale she had become. "Come sweet Lydia, let's get ye back into the shade, ye dinna look well."
Lydia's kin laughed as Inshapae translated. They were amused by the red haired woman's naivety. Several spoke at once, trying to educate her on the nature of skunks.
The boy shushed them and explained. "Wild skunks have glands that squirt foul liquid when they are frightened. Gasehnah's pet has had this removed so was harmless. You do not want to pet a skunk in the forest," he chuckled.
"How bad could this liquid be?" Alexia asked, unimpressed by the warnings.
Her wife spoke up. "The stench is so foul that you would be sleeping outdoors for weeks. I'd not let you near me until it went away," her voice serious.
"Weeks?" the redhead gulped. Everyone nodded sagely. "Any other creatures I ought to know about?" The crowd laughed.
Somehow, Lydia managed to convince her aunt and grandmother to join her in town for the weekly sewing circle. They all got into the carriage, toting examples of their sewing and supplies. The seamstress wanted to learn more of their techniques for she had a project in mind. Then too, she wanted her friends in town to get to know them. Inshapae wasn't happy about the trip but no female among his people spoke the English well enough to act as translator. He sat behind Alexia on her gelding. It took the promise of buying the lad a steel knife at the market to get his co-operation.
The couple reminded everyone to refer to Alexia as 'Alex' and 'he'. The ex soldier was a bit nervous about the trip but didn't tell Lydia of her misgivings. What if the boy slipped?
Phineas raised his wiry eyebrows at their arrival. Alexia made the introductions. Given the fact that the women from the sewing group wouldn't arrive for another hour or so, Lydia suggested they do a bit of shopping then tour their upstairs rooms. The redhead gave her wife a kiss on the cheek and asked her not to spend all their money in one place. Lydia chuckled since her spouse knew full well that she was a spendthrift. They all waved goodbye and headed for the market.
"Your wife's aunt certainly resembles her. She's a fine looking woman for her age. It bodes well if Lydia ages with the same grace," Master Douglas said with a twinkle in his eye.
"Now Mr. Douglas, I thought yer attention was on Widow Greer," the redhead admonished her teasingly.
"My attention yes, but that doesn't mean I am blind! I just happen to appreciate God's female version of humanity, that is all," he said, trying to look pious. Alexia bit her lip while hanging her outer coat on a peg. She started the fire for the glass ovens and began crushing limestone.
"Mr. Douglas, I know ye never married, but hae ye ever regretted having no bairns?"
"Children?" The Glazier scratched his head and sat at the work table. "Sometimes, then I see someone's child misbehaving and I then thank the good Lord for allowing me to escape fatherhood." Phineas chuckled but Alexia could hear the echo of regret behind his words.
"May I ask why the sad face young Mr. Browne? I know you and Lydia have been together almost two years, but children may yet come. It is God's will," he reminded her.
"Nay, I canna father children Master Douglas," Alexia told him.
"Are you certain? Sometimes-"
"I am certain. An herbalist told me so," Alexia said, sticking to the story she and Lydia had invented.
"Ah, that is sad. Still, we never know God's plans for us."
The boy sighed, bored silly. They women were busy learning the Wampanoag way of using quills to make designs. They spoke little other than asking questions, intent of the job at hand. His stomach growled. He walked to the window stared out of it, watching the people walk by.
Lydia noticed his restlessness. "Inshapae, take this," handing him some coins, "and drag that stubborn spouse of mine to the market. He hates shopping but rarely stops for a meal during the day."
Grateful for an excuse to go outdoors, he rushed down the stairs. He found Alexia with a strange reed in her mouth, blowing out a round shiny thing. He was curious and reached out to touch it, not realizing it was molten glass. The redhead saw him reaching for it and carefully pulled it out of harms way. Once satisfied with the size, she separated the metal tube from the glass, placing it on a divot to cool. A few deft touches with her tool beveled the edges.
"Tis hot glass I was forming lad, I dinna want ye burned," she explained, careful to keep her tone mild in respect for the boy's pride.
"What are you making?"
"When I am finished, it will be a perfume bottle. Perfume is a scented oil," she added. "Bored with the lasses already?"
"Aye," the boy said, imitating his favorite Colonist. "Lydia handed me these coins and told me to have you eat."
Alexia looked at the coins, noticing enough to feed the entire group. No doubt she was hinting that everyone was hungry. "Let me tell Master Douglas that I am leaving and I'll be ready to go wi' ye." She asked her employer if he'd like anything while they were out, offering to buy his meal as well. Phineas thanked him and asked for a loaf of bread and an apple. He had some ale in the back room he had told her, winking naughtily. Alexia chuckled and promised to return soon.
They picked out an assortment of foods, the redhead politely asking the boy's preferences. The young man carried the wicker basket, determined to carry the heavy thing manfully.
"Before we head back, let's pick out the knife I promised ye," she suggested. The boy grinned and followed the tall redhead towards the shop.
A nasty voice spoke behind them. "Look at that, he even has one of those filthy primitives following him around!" Alexia spun around, furious. She spotted Ruth standing there with her husband. People passing by stopped and stared.
"I'll thank ye to speak wi' a civil tongue in yer head Ruth Matherson."
"Why should I hold my tongue? It is bad enough you allow them to roam freely on your land, but now you bring them here? Decent people shouldn't have to mingle with the ignorant savages."
Alexia's smile was feral. "Ye are correct. The Wampanoag shouldn't have to deal wi' the likes of ye. Come lad, the ladies are hungry and we have shopping to finish yet," she said good-naturedly, putting her arm about the native's shoulders. The apprentice heard several snickers over her comment. She also heard the insufferable woman gasping in outrage behind her. It probably wouldn't be the last encounter with the bitch, but for now, she got in the last word.
The interpreter was more puzzled than hurt over the confrontation. He had become accustomed to the attitudes of superiority when he was learning English from the priest. When one was convinced your way was better, little could be done to change it. What made the boy curious was the way she spoke to the woman. He had sensed the anger from the tall redhead and actually expected her to lash out at the offensive female. Instead, she had leashed the anger and expressed amusement.
"Alex, you were angry at this Ruth person, correct?"
"Then why did you agree with her?"
The ex soldier laughed. "Inshapae, ye understand English but nae the subtlety behind the words. I told her and everyone listening that she was the ignorant savage, not ye. That is why many laughed. I had insulted her with skill and not lost my temper. Remember, I am thought of as a man, and striking out at the 'weaker' sex is unseemly. Besides, she is wed and it is up to her husband to discipline her."
"You never strike Lydia, do you?"
"Nay, I love her with all my heart and would never harm her. Remember this my young friend, in spite of how some may treat you, in God's eyes, all are equal. People just forget that."
The boy pondered her words.
Phineas allowed the young man to join them once the townswomen left for the day. Lydia and her relatives left in the carriage to enjoy the rest of the mild day outdoors. The three of them chatted as the young man watched them work.
"I think I'm beginning to understand the relationships in Wampanoag society now, but you didn't tell me how you are related to Lydia." Phineas commented.
"I am not. I am merely the one who translates for her kin. I have no family other than my younger brother," the boy said sadly.
"I see," Master Douglas said, clearly confused.
The redhead studied the young man's face. "Inshapae, what happened to your family?"
"They were killed by the spotting sickness."
"Who watches over you and your brother now?" Alexia asked, wondering why they didn't mind the boy being sent here and there by other people.
"No one. I brought him with me and Comochiem watches Ganuite for me during the day. Once we return home, I will care for him. I am a good hunter and will provide all he needs until he too is a man," he said confidently.
Alexia was silent most of the way home, allowing the boy to ramble on without really listening. They got home near sunset and the youth took off towards the camp over the hill to eat. The Wampanoag usually went to sleep when the sun went down.
Absentmindedly, she unsaddled the horse and entered their cabin. Lydia's eyes lit up at her return, and greeted her with a hug and kiss.
"What is wrong?" the perceptive woman asked.
The redhead settled her long frame in the chair and let out a tired breath. "I have a lot on my mind. It involves both of us."
Nodding, Lydia poured two cups of tea and sat down. "Tell me."
"When we first married, it all seemed so simple. Looking back, I should have realized we wouldn't be able to pretend I was a boy for much longer." Alexia paused, making Lydia's heart to pound fearfully.
"Has someone found out?" she asked, grabbing her hand.
"Nay, but it is a matter of time. Lydia, how many 'men' my age have a smooth face? I caught Mary Elizabeth eying my cheeks this afternoon. Oh, we could move to another place and pretend I am younger, but how many times could we do this? Eventually neither of us will have the flush of young adults and someone will discover our secret."
The seamstress grew more panicked as her spouse spoke. "Alexia, what are you trying to tell me? Please don't say you want to part ways, I couldn't stand losing you!"
Alexia stood quickly and gathered the smaller woman into her arms. "Nay sweet Lydia, I could never leave ye, I would rather die." She spent several minutes snuggling with her wife, comforting her.
"I was thinking about yer kin. Their lands are far from any English settlement if I understand it right. I was thinking about living with them."
"What? Are you serious dearling?" Lydia didn't know what to think. It was all so sudden.
"There is something else as well?" Alexia had a strange look on her face that Lydia couldn't decipher. She nodded, prompting her to continue.
"Inshapae is an orphan and has a younger brother. No one is caring for them." The redhead squirmed and didn't meet her eyes. "I want to adopt them," she said in a quiet rush.
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